KDP Select Titles Being Pirated and Distributed to Other Stores

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Do you have any titles in KDP Select? Titles that are supposed to be exclusive to Amazon? If so, you may want to check periodically to make sure they’re not on sale anywhere else.

I only have a couple of titles in KDP Select, or rather my pen name does, and one of them has had a rough year. Earlier this spring, I got an email from Amazon informing me that Stars Across Time (yes, the pen name writes science fiction romance), which was enrolled in KDP Select, was available at Kobo (it turns out it was up at Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc. too). Amazon said I had five business days to remove the title from the other stores, or I’d be kicked out of their program. Imagine my surprise, since this was a relatively new book, and I had never published it anywhere except for Amazon. Imagine my alarm, too, since I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get it removed in five days.

I emailed Kobo, since, at the time, I didn’t know it was in other stores, as well. They said it had arrived via a distributor, so they couldn’t take it down. <insert panicking and flailing of arms>.

I was lucky enough to have Mark Lefebvre‘s email address (he’s the director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo), so I sent him a note and got some more information. He told me it had come to them via Draft 2 Digital and that he would check into it.

I was still panicking a little, since I didn’t have a D2D account or any way to contact them other than the form on their site. I was also worried because this was a book published under a pen name. I was afraid it might be harder than usual to prove that I was the rightful author, if it came to that (the pirate was publishing it under my pen name, letter for letter). I figured this would get resolved eventually, but worried that it wouldn’t be in time to save me from getting booted out of KDP Select. At the time, the book was selling well and getting a lot of borrows, so that would have sucked.

I emailed D2D’s customer support. Fortunately, they got back to me later that same day, said the person publishing the title was a known pirate who’d made accounts and caused trouble there before. I didn’t have to prove anything (phew). They took the book down, and it disappeared from the other stores within 24 hours.

Ultimately, that was a speedbump in my week, but not a big deal. I was relieved and pleased that the D2D folks handled it so quickly. (Though it is pretty lame that people bought the book — yes, I checked, and it had sales rankings everywhere and even a couple of reviews — and I didn’t see any of the money from those sales.)

You would think this would be the end of the story…

Part 2

Last Friday, I was poking around in the Apple store, making affiliate links for the audiobook version of the same title, which recently came out and is available everywhere (did you know that being exclusive with Amazon for an ebook doesn’t preclude publishing an audiobook everywhere?)

And guess what I found? It’s happened again. Stars Across Time was up on all of those same stores again. I emailed D2D to ask them about it, but it was Friday night, so didn’t expect to hear back from them over the weekend. It’s late Monday as I write this, and I’m hoping to hear back from them soon.

Mark at Kobo answered my email right away this afternoon and quarantined the book in their store, so I’m hoping that means it can’t happen again until I’m ready to take the title out of Select and publish it there myself. I don’t know people at Apple and Barnes & Noble, so I’ll have to wait for D2D to handle the rest.

Update: about 20 minutes after I published this post, I got a note from D2D that they’re disabling the account and taking it down again. Thanks, guys!

Asking for a change

This blog post is in part cautionary — my KDP Select friends, you may want to regularly check your titles to make sure someone else isn’t publishing them behind your back — but I also feel that something needs to be done to make it so this doesn’t happen in the future. A quick check on Twitter revealed some other authors who have dealt with similar experiences.

Right now, it seems to be way too easy to make an account at a store or a distributor and publish ebooks without anyone checking if you have the rights to do so. It’s not just D2D. Amazon didn’t bat an eye when I started publishing Ruby Lionsdrake books from my Lindsay Buroker KDP account. Smashwords didn’t care, either, that the author name didn’t match the name on the tax forms.

I don’t know what the solution would be, because it would a pain to make everyone with a pen name jump through 99 hoops just because a few people are uploading pirated ebooks. At the least, I think distributors and stores need to ask some questions when the author listed on the book doesn’t match the name on the account. This would mean publishers having to provide documentation (but they should have contracts with authors on file, anyway), and might mean that those of us who write under pen names would have to get a DBA or some other kind of documentation. It would be an inconvenience, yes, but should it really be this easy to publish someone else’s books?

I would love to hear from you guys. Any thoughts on solutions to make it harder for pirates to do this? Should stores and distributors ask more questions?


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Comments (15)

Sorry to hear about the problems and it is a cautionary tale. I often think Amazon is tackling the wrong problems. I recently bought the rights back to my Artifact Hunters series and republished them myself. And guess what happened? Amazon quarantined them and didn’t believe I was the author/copyright holder! lol
I got the issue sorted eventually, but it makes me scratch my head the same author/same books gets blocked, but you can publish under any *other* name without any issues.

That’s a pain too! They’ve definitely questioned me on boxed sets (do you have written permission to publish these other authors, etc.). They’re the only store that has.

My wife had this happen too, and it wasn’t even a Kindle Select book. We didn’t have it up at Google Play, and someone else stuck it up there and was making money from it. It was just chance that we stumbled across it and found out. If anyone knows how to set up a Google Alert for book stores, I would like to hear about.

The same thing happened to me, and I DID have the book up at Google Play (and it wasn’t in Kindle Select). It didn’t stop a pirate from uploading the book again (under the same title and author), along with a whole bunch of other pirated books. I’d file a DMCA, Google would take it down, and a few days later it would be up again, sometimes with me as the author, sometimes not. There’s speculation that one of the reasons Google Play is currently closed to new publishers is so it can get a handle on the pirated books problem. They closed shop just after The Digital Reader ran an article series about the piracy problem there.

Ugh, how annoying! Stuff like this makes me scared of putting my work out there. :-/

Don’t let it frighten you. Piracy will happen. You just have to accept it and manage it where you can, like Lindsay is doing. Look at it this way: It’s better for 90% of the profit from your book to reach you than none at all.

That is a very good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way before!

Amazon wouldn’t let me publish a multi-author box set until they had e-mails from all the other writers saying they gave their permission. So they do check -just not every time.

With only two books out, KDP isn’t a good tool for me yet, so I manually published to all the majors and have both D2D and Smashwords accounts. More to the point, my books probably don’t sell well enough to make it worth a pirate’s time.

That said, I’ve heard that all the ebook venues (Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc.) all require all sorts of information and proof of copyright ownership if you’re defending against a bogus DMCA takedown notice.

It seems to me they need to standardize their processes, to balance out the “make it easy to publish” marketing goal with the “make rights assertions more rigorous” security goal.

Well, it certainly makes sense to routinely google the title and check where it’s available. Which is a pain once an author has lots of titles…

Glad you could get it resolved so quickly.

Not sure about the hoops of a pen name… I put the copyright notice under my real name and put my real address into my books (German law), so it could be easier to prove they are mine.

I got a Google alert on two of my books being sold illegally. The culprit is, which seems to be hosted by

My ebooks are not KDP, so nothing I can do there. The culprits were selling one of my audio books as well. Since it is exclusive through ACX, I notified them of the pirate sale. I figured if my a-book was there, that there were plenty more.

I notified ACX since that 7-year exclusive means the pirates are stealing from THEM, not just me.

Of course, I also sent a Cease and Desist to since they seem to be the base website and the ones collecting the subscription money.

It’s easier when your books popup on legit sites like Kobo or B&N. They listen and cooperate. It’s the real pirate sites which thumb their noses at you.

Ack! I’m so sorry that happened to you, Lindsay (and some other commenters too). What about requesting a copy or screen shot of the author’s copyright registration? Although it’s $35 a pop, I register the copyright on all my books (yes, even the self-pubbed ones). With your given name, it would show you’re the only person with the right to distribute the books. With a pen name, maybe include something from your taxes saying you’re DBA your pen, confirming with the retailer that you “are” your pen name, and that name has sole distribution rights.

Registering a copyright will at least help protect you some. Not as much as it should.
D2D and Kobo’s inability to catch the same thing happening again and so soon makes me wonder about their business practices. That is sloppy and legit stores should make an effort make sure they are not selling stolen goods (which is what they are).
There is also the question of what happened to the money from the sold books: Were you compensated or did they just keep it themselves?
Although the legit stores should be more responsible, this is really a lack of government enforcing existing laws. It is also hard even then since often online crimes are done from countries without treaties to deal with these crimes. There is a reason the Nigerian email scam really does come from Nigeria – no extradition.
Did they steal the cover art as well?
Personally, I’d prefer to be pirated than have someone file a fake DCMA against me.

This would be why stores like Buqo require you to have a copyright before you can upload your books. I think other stores should follow suit. I’ve had books show up on Google Docs before, but nothing like this. I’m so sorry, Lindsay and others. What a pain!

Ugh. What a pain in the neck. I’m sorry that happened to you. I haven’t had to worry about piracy yet (my books don’t sell enough to matter), but it’s always good to be aware of what can happen and what options authors have when it does.

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